Physical VS Chemical Exfoliator — Which One Is Better For You?

By now, we can all agree that exfoliation is the key to smoother, clearer, brighter and glowing skin. However, the true confusion lies in picking out the right exfoliator that will work best for you!

Exfoliants on the market today are either physical or chemical. While they both technically do the same thing, they do so in very, very different ways.

What are physical exfoliators?

Physical exfoliators are any grainy products or tools that work to mechanically buff away dead skin cells through friction. The best thing about using physical exfoliators is that after a nice scrub, you get instantly baby-soft skin!

Physical exfoliators have a reputation for being harsh on the skin, but that is untrue. They can actually be very gentle, but the problem lies in what products you use, and how you use it. If you’re too rough with your scrubbing, or if you pick an exfoliator that's too harsh, it can backfire by irritating your skin instead.

What are chemical exfoliators?

Common chemical exfoliators will feature either AHA or BHA, and they work by dissolving the glue-like substance holding dead skin cells together.

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) like lactic acid and glycolic acid are best for treating skin concerns on the upper layers of the skin, such as sun damage, uneven texture and pigmentation. BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) like salicylic acid are best for those concerned with blackheads and pore problems since they can better penetrate through oil and other pore-clogging materials.

Which Exfoliator Is Better For Your Skin?

If you have active acne...

Remember that acne is an infection on the skin, so using a harsh physical exfoliator can spread the infection around, and cause more acne! Instead, try a chemical exfoliant like the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. You can apply a thin layer all over your skin, or use it like a spot treatment, and the BHA will help clear your pores like a champ!

If you have flaky/ dry skin...

You might prefer a physical scrub, as it can buff away any dead skin cells and flakiness, and instantly reveal clearer and smoother skin! Try our newly-curated Klairs Youthful Glow Sugar Mask, which contains moisturising shea butter, raspberry oil, and jojoba that leave your skin feeling moisturised after exfoliation.

However, this doesn't mean that you can't still benefit from a chemical exfoliant! AHA exfoliants are especially good if you're looking to target any other skin concerns you might have, such as dark spots or pigmentation, without further drying out your skin.

If you have sensitive skin...

The trick to picking the right exfoliating product for sensitive skin is to choose formulas that have nourishing and healing properties. The Neogen Dermalogy Real Cica Pads, for example, combine both the benefits of physical and chemical exfoliation together, but is still safe to use for sensitive skin. Each pad is textured to provide gentle physical exfoliation, and are soaked in a formula that contains centella asiatica and PHA (a more gentle version of AHA) to helps remove dead skin cells and excess sebum, while reducing redness and inflammation.

Do you have a favourite exfoliator? Share it with us below!

Shop now

"I regret taking such good care of my skin"

- Said no one ever